Republican Senators Say Trump-Ukraine Scandal 'Definitely Changes the Calculus' for Backing President, Congresswoman Says

Representative Debbie Mucarsel-Powell says that some Republicans in the Senate see President Donald Trump's scandal involving Ukraine as changing "the calculus" for backing the command-in-chief, and that it "crosses" the line.

Mucarsel-Powell told CNN on Wednesday that she and other Democratic lawmakers were told by Republican senators that it "definitely changes the calculus for them" if they get "full evidence" from the whistleblower complaint. The congresswoman from Florida said that the GOP senators believe if the evidence shows that Trump withheld military aid from Ukraine to pressure the country's government to investigate the business dealings of Hunter Biden, the son of Trump's political opponent Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, "that crosses that red line."

CNN anchor Kate Bolduan pressed Mucarsel-Powell on the point, asking: "You've heard from Republican senators that if these facts bear out, that is a tipping point for them?"

The representative confirmed that is what she had been hearing. "Yes, yes, that's correct ... I am hopeful that they will put the country before their political interests." When asked by Bolduan if she would name any specific Republican senators, Mucarsel-Powell declined.

.@KateBolduan: “You’ve heard from Republican senators that if these facts bear out, that is a tipping point for them?” @RepDMP: “Yes, yes, that’s correct. … I am hopeful that they will put the country before their political interests.”

— CNN Newsroom (@CNNnewsroom) September 25, 2019

Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who represents California, launched a formal impeachment inquiry against the president on Tuesday evening. The decision came after revelations that an unidentified whistleblower had filed an official complaint due to concerns related to a call between Trump and Ukraine's new president, Volodymyr Zelensky back in July.

During that call, Trump repeatedly pressured Zelensky to investigate Biden's son's business dealings in Ukraine.

Prior to the conversation between Trump and his counterpart in Kiev, the president had decided to temporarily suspend $391 million in military aid to Ukraine. Those allocated funds had been approved with significant bipartisan support to bolster Ukraine in its ongoing fight against Russian-backed separatist rebels. Although it has not been established that the aid being withheld was intended to pressure the new Ukrainian president to investigate Biden's son, Ukrainian officials have said they were given the impression that Trump's support for their government would be impacted by their willingness to pursue the probe.

Over the weekend, Republican Senator Mitt Romeny of Utah, who was his party's presidential nominee in 2012, shared his concerns about the allegations against Trump regarding Ukraine.

"If the President asked or pressured Ukraine's president to investigate his political rival, either directly or through his personal attorney, it would be troubling in the extreme. Critical for the facts to come out," the GOP congressman posted on Twitter.

A full transcript of the call was released by the White House on Wednesday morning, with some Republicans defending the president and Democrats condemning him further.

Trump phone call with Ukraine's president
The declassified phone transcript, released by the White House, of a conversation between President Donald Trump and Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy from July 25 is seen in this photo illustration in Washington, D.C. on September 25 ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP

"This transcript is devastating. Within moments of President Zelensky discussing the need for U.S. security aid, Trump asks him to investigate his political opponents. Throughout the call, Trump tells the Ukrainian president to coordinate with his reelection campaign," Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut said in a statement following the transcript's release "These are demands that a president of the United States simply cannot make of a foreign leader."

Legal experts have argued that the president's actions toward Ukraine's government have clearly violated the Constitution.

Professor Cary Coglianese at the University of Pennsylvania Law School told Newsweek in an emailed statement that the recent allegations against Trump implicated "all five core principles of constitutional government."

If the impeachment inquiry "confirms what has been alleged and admitted, the question going forward will be not merely whether to impeach or remove the president," Coglianese said. "It will be whether, if the president is not impeached or removed, the public will ever again be entitled to expect elected officials to serve the national interest, respect the rule of law, honor the truth, maintain meaningful checks and balances and take electoral integrity seriously."

But Trump has insisted he acted appropriately toward Ukraine. With the release of the transcript of his phone call, Trump tweeted on Wednesday: "Will the Democrats apologize after seeing what was said on the call with the Ukrainian President? They should, a perfect call - got them by surprise!"